Indeed shows how to make an ‘unlimited leave’ policy work
As a company specialising in recruitment, it should come as no surprise that Indeed, the world’s number one job website, knows what it takes to be a good employer.
Indeed, which now has over 200mn monthly visitors to its global website, offers all manner of benefits to its 5,000 or so global employees including parental leave for both primary and secondary caregivers, adoption assistance, back-up child care, student loan repayment management, a wellness program and even pet insurance.
The company also ensures that all offices are stocked with healthy snacks and beverages, with remote workers receiving a monthly box of snacks, similar those available onsite. Indeed implements a casual dress code in open offices with convertible desks that offer a sitting or standing option for employees, and there is plenty of comfy seating and spots where employees can go for some quiet time or one-on-one meetings.
Communication access is also a premium consideration, with Indeed ensuring that video conferencing is available for all employees to connect with the rest of the company’s global workforce.
But despite that myriad of resources and benefits available to help keep employees comfortable and happy, there is still one policy we are yet to mention which seems the most innovative and potentially groundbreaking of them all: Indeed allows all of its employees unlimited leave.
Under what the company calls its ‘Unlimited PTO’ policy, employees can take as much time as they wish – for sickness, personal days or vacation days. There are no limits.
A company statement says: “Open PTO empowers current employees, makes for happier workers in the long-term, and also demonstrates to potential talent that the company cares about the health and wellbeing of its employees.
“Beyond salary and benefits, most workers will gravitate towards opportunities that are employee-centric. Compensation consistently ranks as the least significant factor when it comes to considering what makes people happy at work.”
This last statement is backed up by findings in the company’s own Workplace Happiness Index, 2016.
Indeed considers the unlimited PTO policy to be an unmitigated success, so we caught up with the company's Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR Paul Wolfe to find out more.
“An engaged workforce is critical - if you don’t have an engaged workforce, you are going to be facing constant turnover, low productivity and a lacklustre employer brand,” he says.
An engaged workforce is really the foundation for a successful company and a company’s greatest asset - a happy employee is your best brand ambassador.
“These days it’s rare that you would interact with a candidate who hasn’t researched your company - either formally using tools like Indeed Company Pages, or informally by asking their family, friends and extended network what they think about your company brand. Happy employees will have strong messages to share about why your company is a great place to work.
"Companies who are actively engaged in offering a rewards culture need to make sure they are promoting it in their job descriptions to help bring candidates in, and companies who are struggling with retention should think about ways they can make their environment more attractive to effectively compete for talent.
“Ultimately, the investment it takes to create a supportive work environment is rewarded with happy, high-performing and retained employees."
And unsurprisingly, the policy proved mightily popular with staff.
“It was extremely well received and is very popular with our employees,” Wolfe says. “Part of the reason this is successful is that we are showing we trust our employees to take the amount of time off that makes sense for them and their roles.
“We also encourage people to take time off: managers have conversations with employees who aren’t taking time away, and also take time away themselves to set a good example that rest and recuperation is important. We consider our paid PTO program a success because employees have taken a healthy amount of time off and simultaneously been very productive. In fact, we saw a 28% increase in the number of days taken off by employees after the first full year.”
The unlimited leave policy is not a global first. It remains pretty rare but there are other companies within the technology sector who have done the same or similar – however, the size of Indeed as a company makes its rollout of this kind of policy particularly noteworthy.
Where did the idea come from for Indeed to do this and how does it make sure that employees don’t abuse the privilege?
“We believe that trusted, empowered and rested employees have a better chance of being happier and also performing better,” says Wolfe.
“Our leadership team thought through the pros and cons of implementing an Open PTO program and the benefits were overwhelmingly outweighing any cons. Ultimately, we want to create a great work environment for our employees so they can, in turn, help others find great jobs as well.
“The open paid time off policy was rolled out on a global scale at Indeed, and managers were provided with FAQs and support on monitoring their team's time off. The unlimited vacation policy also reflects Indeed’s core mission of helping employers attract the talent they need, and job seekers find work that they enjoy.
“Our managers are responsible for approving time off - so we don’t really have any issues of abusing the policy. Managers and employees work together on discussing PTO and covering off on responsibilities during time away.”
It seems then like a good idea, well-executed, by a successful company. As well as the higher performance of a highly-motivated and cared-for for workforce, what other positive benefits has Wolfe seen as a byproduct of the policy?
“Indeed is a rapidly growing global company,” he explains, “so like any growing company, we have to make sure we are keeping engagement high as we grow and that we don’t lose our culture and the things that make Indeed a great place to work.
“Numerous factors go into this: the office environment, the kind of work staff are doing, their manager and team, to name just a few. You have to work on all of these aspects which in concert contribute to an engaged workforce.
“And tenure is certainly a byproduct of motivated employees. We want to keep people that we hire with Indeed as long as we can, and motivation is critical to that.
“We realize it is unlikely we will keep all of our employees for the length of their careers, but while they are at Indeed, we want them to be happy, and if they decide to leave, we want them to look back at their experience with us positively.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.